BOBBY BENNETT: I CHOOSE TO BE OPTIMISTIC
Optimism, op·ti·mism, /ˈäptəˌmizəm/ - hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.
While I have written professionally now for almost three decades, the upcoming NHRA season marks the most optimistic new season in a long time.
While there are those who find fault in the Glendora gang regardless of what they do or attempt to do, in looking at the recent moves being made behind the scenes, I see a genuine attempt to fix wrongs perpetrated over the last decade.
And, let’s be honest, there have been many wrongs.
There is no blame against anyone for being disgusted with drag racing's premiere sanctioning body for the last half decade or so.
The former leadership was asleep at the wheel and for even those who were most optimistic, there was a growing concern golden parachutes were being packed at the expense of everyone who poured their hearts and souls into trying to grow the NHRA brand.
Call it piling on, but my opinion is Tom Compton set the NHRA back far more than he ever advanced the organization. I believe he reached a point where he couldn't find his way and instead of openly admitting it, appeared to simply settle in for the paycheck.
Honestly, while we have our cards on the table, Compton should have been booted in September 2003 when he was arrested for driving under the influence. The NHRA opted to give him a second chance, but it appeared during the 2015 season the decision came back to bite them.
Then, for reasons unbeknownst to the drag racing world, he went missing in the midst of an NHRA downward spiral. Even those challenged to make the sport look rosy and positive, couldn't begin to scratch the surface of the issues barreling down the straight-line sport.
Even in the midst of announcing the Compton era was finished, the mere press conference announcing his successor as Peter Clifford, quickly devolved into a public relations disaster.
There was plenty of reason to feel the Clifford era was to be more of the same.
Then something out of the norm transpired which caught even the most seasoned skeptics off guard; the NHRA became proactive.
Clifford began making his presence known to racers, fans and the media.
Unlike Compton, who was shielded from any interaction with drag racing's media by his personal handler, Clifford made his presence known with immediate engagement and an unwavering promise his leadership would right the rudderless ship.
Then came the appointment of Terry Blount, a respected sports journalist and people person, with a primary objective to rebuild the burned bridges between NHRA and some of its media.
Then NHRA announced a new television package with Fox Sports1, with the sole purpose to make NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series broadcasts relevant again. The production has been moved in-house, promising to present more media opportunities.
Not every move has been popular in the eyes of skeptics.
Pro Stock’s retooling has been met with angst from a handful of racers, and an even larger amount of gearhead fans. Based on past transgressions, the benefit of the doubt presently isn’t on the table.
And the decision to not renew Mike Dunn’s participation in the new television effort flew as a lead balloon.
The NHRA secretly met with its teams at the NHRA AAA Finals, and laid out a complete initiatives presentation, a presentation we in the media who support them as well, were not privy too. However, in all entities both government and private, there are leaks and in confirming so, now I know why those we talked to are filled with hope for the future.
I’m all too willing to give them a chance to right the wrongs because really, what other choice is there?
That’s not being a lapdog, that’s called optimism for the big picture.